Types of criminalisation

  • Criminalises LGBT people
  • Criminalises sexual activity between males
  • Criminalises the gender expression of trans people

Same-sex sexual activity is prohibited under the Penal Code 2008, which criminalises acts of ‘carnal knowledge against the order of nature’ and ‘gross indecency’. These provisions carry a maximum penalty of fourteen years’ imprisonment and a fine. Only men are criminalised under this law. In addition to potentially being captured by laws that criminalise same-sex activity, trans people may also face prosecution under a ‘vagabond’ law which criminalises a ‘male person dressing as a woman’, with a maximum penalty of three months’ imprisonment and a fine.

The law was inherited from the British during the colonial period, in which the English criminal law was imposed upon Sudan. South Sudan retained the provision upon its independence from Sudan in 2011 and continues to criminalise same-sex sexual activity today.

There is little evidence of the law being enforced in recent years, with the only reported arrests taking place in 2017, though it is not clear on what grounds they were arrested and whether they were themselves LGBT. There have been limited reports of discrimination and violence being committed against LGBT people in South Sudan in recent years, however the lack of reporting is likely due to the absence of LGBT civil society in the country.



The US Department of State reported that security forces routinely harass, and sometimes arrest, detain, beat and torture LGBT persons, including at least one extrajudicial killing.


In September, a government minister reportedly stated that security forces would be ordered to arrest LGBT people and detain them until they procreate.

In December, national security agents reportedly arrested, detained, and mistreated several people affiliated with the LGBT community.

Discrimination and Violence


The US Department of State report noted that discrimination and abuse occurred, and that LGBT people who reported incidents to police faced harassment, arrest, and torture in detention. Because of this environment, most openly LGBT people fled the country.


In April, it was reported that an LGBT activist fled South Sudan after facing threats from the country’s national security operatives.


A report by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency found that societal discrimination against LGBT people is widespread. It noted that President Salva Kiir Mayardit asserted in 2010 that no gay people existed in South Sudan, and that homosexuality should be condemned by everyone.


Related Countries


Sudan criminalises same-sex sexual activity between men and between women. Sentences include a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.


Somalia criminalises same-sex sexual activity between men and between women. Sentences include a maximum penalty of death.


Ethiopia criminalises same-sex sexual activity between men and between women. Sentences include a maximum penalty of one year imprisonment.

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